The Houston Rockets are coming off their best season in recent memory and, as a result, they will likely keep more of their roster intact than ever before under seventh-year general manager Daryl Morey.
The Rockets won 56 regular season games to earn the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, and reached the Conference Finals for the first time since 1997. Still, the Houston Chronicle is reporting that the team may have as many five or six players with one or two years of experience on their opening day roster.
“KJ McDaniels will be a free agent, but the Rockets hope to sign him. The Rockets do want to bring back Kostas Papanikolaou, but [Rockets vice president Gersson] Rosas said ‘a decision has not been made’ about whether to exercise their option on the second year of his contract or to try to sign him again as a free agent.”
Houston also has two draft picks in this year’s draft — the No. 18 selection (acquired from New Orleans) and the No. 32 pick.
McDaniels, who is an unrestricted free agent, should draw interest from other teams that are looking for an athletic role player who is very good defensively. McDaniels is coming off an elbow fracture and struggles with his jumper, especially from long distance — he made just 28.7 percent of his three-point attempts a season ago. His true shooting percentage was 49.4 percentage.
McDaniels appeared in just 10 games for a total of 33 minutes after coming over to Houston from Philadelphia for Isaiah Canaan and a 2015 second round draft choice. The 2014 second round draft choice averaged 9.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.3 blocks in 52 appearances for the Sixers.
The Philadelphia 76ers are one team expected to throw money towards McDaniels, but NBC Sports believes that no team will make an offer that would make the Rockets hesitate in bringing him back. McDaniels, for his part, has told Mark Berman of Fox26 that he wants to be in Houston.
Rookie KJ McDaniels expected to be RFA with Rockets qualifying offer by June 30:"Just trying to be the best I can be & prove that I belong."
— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) May 25, 2015
Papanikolaou also showed promise as a rookie. He appeared in 43 games for the Rockets, but saw limited time after the Rockets obtained Josh Smith. Papanikolaou averaged 4.2 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 2.0 assists in 18.5 minutes a contest during the regular season.
Houston has until June 29 to decide whether to pick up Papanikolaou’s team option, which is valued at $4.79 million. While picking up his option gives the Rockets the most cap flexibility, they have a tough decision to make, as Papanikolaou shot 35 percent from the field and 29.2 percent from the three-point line. Six of Papanikolaou’s 12 shots a game were from long distance.
The 6-foot-8 Papanikolaou is best suited for small forward, but is also seen as a possible stretch-four. He needs to improve his shooting, however, and become a better rebounder.
Shooting guard Nick Johnson, the Rockets’ second round pick last year, and power forward/center Clint Capella, Houston’s first round draft pick in 2014, are two youngsters basically assured of being on the Rockets’ roster, as their contracts are guaranteed for next season.
Houston has eight players currently under contract and six potential free agents. As the Inquisitr previously reported, free agents Jason Terry, Josh Smith, and Corey Brewer (player option) want to return to the team. The Rockets need to decide whether to keep unrestricted free agent point guard Patrick Beverley or allow the defensive-minded restricted free agent leave.
[Photo by Scott Halleran / Getty Images]